The department of Economic Development Environment, Conservation and Tourism in partnership with WEConnect International and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality hosted the two-day workshop on access to markets for women entrepreneurs in the environmental sector in Rustenburg.

The workshop seeks to create a platform for women to participate in the mainstream economy through exploring and taking advantage of untapped markets, the sustainable utilization of our natural resources as well as providing alternatives in responding to the pressures of climate change. The aim is to further explore the value chain of economic opportunities from the raw material to the processing of products, specifically in the environmental sector.

“We have created this collaboration discussion to review opportunities and market gaps, on which women business owners can collaborate. Platforms such as this serves as a critical piece of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and for driving economic growth and gender equality”, said Ms. Lebo Diale Chief Director for Environmental Services

She explains that the workshop revealed that valuable knowledge and experience exists in communities generated by grassroots innovators in townships and rural areas, where there is mainly a shortage of knowledge on product development, access to market and finances.These innovators continuously seek solutions to local problems using limited local resources.

“To add value to this critical knowledge, we have committed to engage these innovators in the environmental sector through this workshop to allow them to gain better insight on the services of government and the financial institutions so to enable the adjustment of existing instruments to meet their needs,” says Diale.

Diale defined the workshop as part of departmental efforts to develop meaningful partnerships with the public & private sectors in order to assist women-owned enterprises.

Ms Jean Chawapiwa; Country Director from WEConnect International, a global network that seeks to generate and enhance market access opportunities for women business owners to sell their goods and services to a broader team of buyers around the globe encouraged women entrepreneurs to work together and assist each other in their business ventures.

“Approaching big corporates as a group of businesses to deliver sufficient product is a much better option than going to big business as a single supplier, collaboration is key,” says Ms Chawapiwa.

As part of the workshop programme, the delegates had an opportunity to go for a site visit in small scale farming enterprises in the Rustenburg area to explore the complete value chain of economic opportunities in cultivation and processing of products.

The workshop was attended by approximately 200 delegates from Development Finance Institutions, Commercial Banks, women entrepreneurs and experts in the fields of economics and environmental activists.